Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Dumbing Down of the U.S. Meritocracy

Touched on by Abu-Khalil in relation to U.S. official expertise in the Middle East.

"Say what you want about the 70's and 80's and their bad policies but at least the experts had actual knowledge of the region and knew how to speak Arabic," he said.

"Look at Jeffrey Feltman (the current Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs), in all his years I think he's learned how to say shukran (thank you) and Ramadan Kareem (Ramadan is generous)...just like how former Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Elliot Abrams didn't know any Spanish...

The U.S. meritocracy is getting quite dumb. Even compare the writings from two generations ago, the literary and historical references and allusions within academic papers are more shallow, if they exist at all. You can almost trace this back into the high schools, with their parent initiated qualifications for gifted and talented programs, the AP classes with students whose parents have pull but no real special talent. I once ran sound for a G&T summer program near San Francisco, in a district that was 50%+ Latino, where all the G&T students were white or Asian. Of course most of the Hispanic parents didn't speak English and the others, by virtue of their professional background, did. (Asian immigration is disproportionately from the professional classes.) They couldn't find one 'gifted' Hispanic kid in their entire district ? These snapshots just tell us that the country is leaving too many naturally bright people out of the process which of course weakens the foundation as a whole. One can also include the political debate; it is quite narrow and leaves out a lot of left types who have no desire to overthrow capitalism but rather want to work within the existing order, even. This creates a weaker political structure that leads to legislative and regulatory failures and in our recent case, financial crisis. A strong meritocracy is one that can include a wide variety of voices for the government to chose from depending on the situation.
1'Renowned intellectual Abu-Khalil talks Egypt, Palestine in Dearborn' Arab American News

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